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Arnie & The British

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Greetings from The Booth!

Vacation looms, as I get ready for my annual trip to Deep Creek Lake, Md. next week, thanks to the BBILE (Best Brother-In-Law Ever).I’m looking forward to a week in a beautiful lake house for a little R&R&R…Rest, Relaxation, and Recharging! Not to mention a giant hot tub, some adult beverages, and a John Grisham novel.

This week, Major League Baseball takes it’s annual All-Star Break, which brings back great memories for me. As a kid who loved baseball, I would always keep a scoresheet for the Mid-Summer Classic (“that’s 4-to-3 if you’re scoring at home”) and there were always some great All-Star Games back in the day. Who could forget Reggie Jackson’s mammoth blast that hit the light standard in the 1971 All Star game. And how about Pete Rose’s violent collision with Ray Fosse on July 14th, 1970. And, unlike today, players who were invited actually showed up and played.

This week also marks the 149th playing of The Open Championship, golf’s final “major” of the year, at the Royal St. George’s Golf Course in the UK. On this side of the pond it’s called “The British Open,” because we Americans don’t want to give it more importance than our own “US Open.”

The British Open is most often played at seaside “links” courses, and is alien to the style of golf played here in the States. Weather is almost always a factor (you’ll see sweaters being worn by some golfers this week), with wind, rain, and cold one day, followed by sunny and mild (by British standards) the next. In addition, the finicky golf gods can leave terrible lies even on shots in the fairway.

These are just a few of the reasons why at one time the British Open was a tournament that most American golfers didn’t care much about. In addition to the style of golf and the weather, it cost too much to go “across the pond” and play in The Open Championship. With no exemptions and low prize money, many golfers would lose money by playing in the British, even if they qualified.

Then came Arnold Palmer, who in 1960, was one of only 4 Americans to play in The Open Championship at St. Andrews (“the home of golf”), and one of only 2 Yanks to make the cut. Palmer was trying to complete the Big Three that year, already having won The Masters and US Open, something Ben Hogan had done in 1953.

Palmer would lose by a stroke, but gave legitimacy to a tournament that very well could have faded from the “major” ranks. Arnie paved the way for great American moments at The British, like Jack Nicklaus’ 3 victories, John Daly’s unlikely second major win, and 59 year-old Tom Watson almost winning The Open Championship in 2009. And let’s not forget Watson’s 5 British Open Claret jugs.

“Old Toom,” as he is called across the water, and is one of the greatest links players of all time, embraced the Open Championship, and the British people embraced him back. Watson has an incredible love for the birthplace and traditions of the game, and that is not lost on the Brits, Scots, Irish, and Welsh.

But this love affair with Watson and The Open Championship would not have been possible without the great Arnold Palmer, who revived American interest in the British Open in July of 1960.

Until the next visit from the Booth, FORE, and GO HORNETS!


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